How long should it take to earn a 'Black Belt'?

A modern martial arts problem... just how long should it take to earn the coveted black belt?

We've spoken to a lot of people and done plenty of research to help get to the bottom of this.

What we know so far is the average opinion is somewhere between 2 & 6 years is the sort of timescales you can expect when training regularly.

There are plenty of supporting arguments in each case, to include training regularity, natural skill level, age, previous experience and so on.

It's not exactly the answer we were looking for so we've broken it down ourselves:

  • Many martial arts will have, for example around 9 belts up to and including black (e.g. white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown/white, brown, black)

  • 'Junior' grades, can usually be taken at a minimum of 3 months apart

  • 'Senior' grades will require more learning, and sometimes a longer minimum gap (e.g. 6 months before purple & brown/white, 1 year before brown, 1/2 years before black)

Assuming that a student is ready (and willing) to grade as quickly as allowed each time, it would take 18 months to reach the first senior grade (purple in our example). From there, according to our made up scenario, it would take a further 2.5 to 3.5 years to reach black belt status.

In total, that would mean a minimum of between 4 & 5 years to earn a black belt. Alternatively, an association may allow gradings every 3 months, which would take 2 years & 3 months.

Both are best case scenarios, assuming the student is missing no training, and passing every grade at the earliest opportunity. Whilst not impossible, it is quite unlikely , meaning each case could be easily extended by at least 3 months.

To conclude, it would seem the average guess of between 2 & 6 years is not actually too far away. We would argue though that the higher end of the scale is much more likely.